R&A and USGA Rules of Golf 2019 – Publications

R&A and USGA Rules Publications

The R&A and USGA ‘Official Guide to the Rules of Golf 2019‘ is now available in a Flexi-bound hard-copy from Amazon.co.uk

Contains everything you need to know, including ‘Interpretations’, (which was the old ‘Decisions’) and ‘Committee Procedures’

Click here to go to the Amazon webpage

If you do not wish to possess a Hard-copy then the Mobile Apps for iOS or Android devices are excellent, and can be downloaded from here.


Are you 2019 Rules of Golf Ready?

Are you 2019 Rules of Golf Ready?

Preparation by Clubs or Committees for 2019 Changes to the Rules of Golf

The R&A and the USGA have announced many changes to the Rules of Golf to come into effect on 1 January 2019.

They represent the most substantial Rules overhaul since 1984. Because of the amount of reform, this modernisation of the Rules of Golf is likely to require at least some degree of change by every Golf Club.

I will consider the categories of information that I think golf clubs should be considering to ensure they are 2019 Rules-ready and would encourage the appropriate person or committee within a club to consider this information as a part of their planning for the transition to the new Rules. I hope to provide further information and updates between now and 1st January 2019 as it becomes available.

Matters for a club to consider or be aware of are:

1. Scorecard ordering

  • When ordering scorecards clubs should be mindful that at least some of their local rules will change on 1st January 2019. Note: There will be no requirement for clubs to stop using any pre-2019 scorecards come 1st January 2019. Supplies of old scorecards can continue to be used until they have been exhausted (provided players in competitions operate under 2019-compliant local rules).

The R&A “Committee Toolkit” feature will include a Local Rules “creator” which will allow committees to select the Model Local Rules they need to create the Local Rules sheet for their course and to pass on to their score card printer. [The R&A advised this would be at least partially functional by the week of 10-14 September.2

2. Whether to use the new stroke-and-distance local rule

  • Significant issues with pace of play can result from players needing to take stroke-and- distance relief for a ball that is out of bounds or cannot be found when a provisional ball has not been played. As a result, The R&A has made available a new stroke-and- distance Local Rule. The purpose of this new Local Rule is to allow a Committee to provide an extra relief option that will allow a player to play on without returning to the location of the previous stroke.
  • This option allows the player to drop in a large area between the point where the ball is estimated to have come to rest or gone out of bounds and the edge of the fairway that is not nearer the hole.
  • The player gets two penalty strokes when using this relief option, so the relief is comparable to what could have been achieved if the player had taken stroke-and- distance relief.
  • The Local Rule is appropriate for general play where golfers are playing casual rounds or playing their own competitions. The Local Rule is not appropriate for competitions limited to highly-skilled players (that is, professional competitions and elite amateur competitions). Clubs may choose to operate it only on a specific hole or holes. For holes with features that make it unusually difficult to establish a relief option, a club may choose to use dropping zones in addition to the new stroke-and-distance local rule option.
  • Events such as corporate days will generally be well-suited to this new Local Rule option. However, it would be permissible for it to be adopted for use in any club competition.

More detailed guidance on the new stroke-and-distance Local Rule will be available upon the release of the Committee Procedures resource.

3. Whether to mark any new ‘penalty areas’

  • The Rules for ‘penalty areas’ (currently called ‘water hazards’) will be relaxed.
  • Under the new Rules, red and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, rough that is deep and thick, etc.
  • As is currently the case with red and yellow hazards, penalty areas under the new Rules must still be clearly and accurately marked or defined.
  • Committees will now have the discretion to mark all penalty areas as red so that lateral relief is always allowed (but they may still mark penalty areas as yellow where they consider it appropriate). Under the 2019 Rules The R&A encourages committees to mark most penalty areas red to give players the additional option of lateral relief. However, where part of the challenge of the hole is to carry over a penalty area such as a stream that crosses the front of the putting green and there is a good chance that a ball that carries over the stream could fall back into it, the committee can decide to mark the penalty area as yellow.

4. Whether to bring in a local rule permitting lateral relief on opposite side of penalty area

  • The new Rules of golf give a player, the option to take lateral relief or back-on-the-line relief based on where his or her ball last crossed the edge of a red penalty area. But in some cases (for example, due to the location of the red penalty area right next to a course boundary), those options may leave the player with no reasonable option other than to take stroke-and-distance relief.
  • A Committee can introduce a Local Rule to allow lateral relief on the opposite side of the red penalty area as an extra relief option under Rule 17.1d.

When considering a Local Rule to allow additional relief:

  • The Committee should consider introducing the Local Rule in situations when a player could be seriously disadvantaged if it was not introduced. Two such examples are:
  • Where a boundary coincides with the edge of a penalty area down the side of a hole such that if a ball last crossed into the penalty area on the boundary side, the player would be likely to have no realistic relief option other than to play again under stroke and distance.
  • Where the layout of the penalty area is such that there could be doubt as to where the ball last crossed into the penalty area and the decision on which side of the penalty area the ball last crossed has a considerable impact on where to take relief. This applies if a relatively narrow penalty area is bounded by bushes or thick rough on one side and fairway on the other.
  • It is recommended that the Committee specify the location of specific penalty areas that the Local Rule applies to, rather than applying it to all red penalty areas on the course. This Local Rule should not be used to allow a player to use this opposite side relief option to get across a red penalty area to a more favourable location than is available if only normal lateral relief under Rule 17.1d is used and available.
  • It may also be desirable to mark the penalty areas where this option is available in a special way such as putting a different coloured top on any stakes where the extra option is available, and this should be stated in the Local Rule.
  • Instead of using this Local Rule, the Committee may decide to put one or more dropping zones in place (see Model Local Rule E-1)

5. Whether to bring into effect a Code of Conduct for on-course activity with penalties that apply to a player’s competition score

  • Under the new Rules, committees are given authority to adopt their own code of player conduct and to set penalties for a breach of the standards in that code.
  • A code of conduct will be able to provide for the application of any of the following penalties: warning, 1 stroke, 2 strokes (in Stableford or Par or stroke play), loss of hole (in match play), disqualification.

Examples of the type of player activity that may attract penalties under this new code of conduct capability include: failure to rake bunkers, failure to repair divots, failure to repair ball damage on a green, failure to adhere to required dress standards, etc.

  • Detailed guidance is be available under the Committee Procedures resource (see item B6). Note that I recommend that a Code of Conduct should apply both to members and Visitors.

6. Whether to bring in a Pace of Play Policy

  • The new Rules of Golf recommend a Committee Pace of Play Policy. To encourage and enforce prompt play, the Committee should adopt a Local Rule setting a Pace of Play Policy.
  • This Policy may set a maximum time to complete a round, a hole or series of holes and a stroke, and it may set penalties for not following the Policy.

See Committee Procedures, Section 5G (recommendations on contents of Pace of Play Policy).

7. New permission under the Rules to officially return scores digitally.

  • Under the existing Rules, the only permitted method for a player to officially return a competition score to the committee is on a paper (or cardboard) scorecard. From 1 January 2019, the Rules will allow committees to provide players with a digital submission option (or options) for the official return of scores.
  • It will be acceptable under the Rules for committees to permit each competitor to choose whether they submit their score digitally or on a paper scorecard. It will also be acceptable for committees to choose to accept paper scorecards only.
  • This may not apply to majority of clubs in the UK

8. Introduction of new stroke play format – Maximum Hole Score.

  • Under the existing Rules of Golf, a competitor in a stroke play competition (ie medal play competition) is required to hole out on every hole or they will be disqualified. ‘Maximum Score’ stroke play is an official new competition format that will be available to clubs from 1 January 2019 in addition to regular stroke play.
  • Under this new format a club will be permitted to set its own maximum score for a hole (eg 10, or 2 x par of hole, or net quadruple bogey, etc). If a player doesn’t finish a hole, or has more than the maximum score, they must be credited for competition purposes with whatever the committee has set as the maximum score (for handicapping purposes the player would be credited with whatever their Stableford score would have been for that hole).
  • It will not be mandatory for ISV Handicap Systems to offer functionality to support the new ‘Maximum Score’ competition format. At this stage it is unclear how attractive this option will be to golf clubs or how many have already expressed an interest to the R&A in this new format – probably with a view to trying to make medal play days a more attractive proposition for beginners and other high-handicap players.
  • Clubs will have to await advice from their ISV on the potential availability of functionality to support the new ‘Maximum Score’ competition format. I anticipate this advice will be provided in the coming weeks. I don’t think It will be mandatory for providers to offer ‘Maximum Score’ functionality to Golf Clubs

I hope this advice is of some help.

Enjoy your Golf!



Slow Play – Pace of Play – Ready golf

Now we all know how frustrating a slow round of golf can be and are always ready to blame players or a group in front of us, but player behaviour may not always be the reason for Slow Play.

The R&A and USGA are championing the use of Ready Golf in order to deter Slow Play and many Golf Clubs are following their recommendation in the misguided belief that it will encourage golfers to play more frequently, attract more individuals to play golf and overnight turn round their falling revenues.

I do not see how the R&A and USGA can promote this action when their own findings from their Pace of Play Global Survey (2015) clearly demonstrated that Player behaviour did not play a major part in increasing the  time to play a round of golf.

Their Global Survey clearly showed:

  1. That less than 18% of golfers said Slow Play prevented them from playing more frequently
  2. Over 75% of golfers said they had no issues with Slow Play and did not feel it affected their membership or impacted greatly on the Pace of Play

Meaning that Player Behaviour was not a major factor in increasing the Pace of Play of a round of golf.

What the R&A and USGA did find from their Global Survey, and I do not know why they are not asking Clubs to put these issues to the top of a Pace of Play agenda was that the three major factors affecting Pace of Play were:

  1. Overcrowding the Golf Course
  2. Course Set Up
  3. Course Management

Many policies that Golf Clubs have already in place create a slow pace of play even before a golfer has teed up his/her ball on the first tee.

Surely Clubs must be encouraged to address these issues if they want to thrive and improve revenues, rather than covering them up by blaming player behaviour for the problem – which Ready Golf only emphasises.

Ready Golf as it is being introduced at the moment, like the previous ‘keep up with the group in front’, will not work alone.

To have any effect it will require marshalling, which is expensive both in time and manpower and the need to have a strict pace of Play Policy in place so that players, both members and visitors, know what is expected of them out on the course or in a competition.

Enjoy your golf!



Official Launch of Rules of Golf 2019

Today is the Official Launch of the R&A and USGA Rules of Golf 2019

Rules of Golf 2019

The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf (an A5 size) and the Player’s Guide to the Rules of Golf have been launched today .

The Player’s version will be in all Golf Clubs soon and will be available to order from the R&A Shop on 1st October 2018.

The A5 Official Guide to the Rules of Golf 2019 will also be available to order from the R&A Shop from 1st October 2018

Meanwhile, you can read an online version of both publications if you click on the link below

Online versions of Official and Player’s Guide to the Rules of Golf 2019

Enjoy your read and don’t forget toorder a free copy of the hard publication from the R&A Shop

Lifting a Ball to Identify It


Well looks like a lot more golf is being played now the better weather is with us, I am receiving more questions onRules of Golf and Handicapping.

Ball in Rough.jpg

This post will deal with the query ‘May a player lift his/her ball in the rough in order to identify it?’

The answer is yes provided you follow the procedure set out in the current Rules of Golf, 12-2, and that is:

  1. Before lifting the ball the player must announce his/her intention to his/her opponent in Match Play or his/her Marker or Fellow-competitor in Stroke Play
  2. Mark the position of the Ball
  3. The ball may be lifted provided the player gives his/her opponent, marker or fellow-competitior an opportunity to observe the lifting and replacement
  4. The ball must not be cleaned beyond the extent sufficient to be able to identify it
  5. The ball must be replaced in its original location and rotation as that in which it was found

Failure to comply wth all or any part of this procedure, or the ball is liftedto identify it without good reason to do so, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke, both in Match Play and Stroke Play. If the ball is the player’s ball, s/he must replace it, if s/he fails to do so s/he incurs the general penalty of Loss of Hole in Match Play or Two Strokes in Stroke Play.

Lifting also encompasses ‘rolling/rotating the ball’, which many amateurs do.

NOTE: In the New Rules of Golf 2019, Rule 7.3, a player will not have to announce her/his intention to lift a ball for identification. The act of rotating the ball, instead,  is also mentioned specifically

In Match Play a player may overlook her/his opponent’s  infringement to this rule if s/he wishes, feeling that the opponent has not gained any significant advantage by doing so.

This last point can apply to most rules during Match Play, provided players have not agreed beforehand on actions they will take over certain rules or do not agree to waiver any Rule of Golf.

Enjoy your golf!

Rules of Golf 2019 – Proposed Changes to Definitions 2019

Proposed Changes to the Rules of Golf Definitions 2019

Following on from the last blog, which outlined the Rules of Golf that would not be changed, the next stage in understanding the Rules of Golf for 2019 is to understand the definitions and the proposed changes to these definitions.

Understanding the definitions is essential to understanding the Rules of Golf and their application.

The R&A and USGA Chart below introduces these changes and divides them into :-

  1. Changes to definitions already used in the current Rules of Golf
  2. New definitions added to the Rules of Golf 2019
  3. Proposed new or Changed Undefined Terms to be used in the New Rules of Golf 2019

Please click on Proposed Changes in Definitions 2019 to view these charts.

Rules of Golf 2019 – What is not changing?

Rules of Golf 2019 – What is not changing

While Golf Clubs are still working on implementing the Handicapping changes introduced by CONGU, the  countdown begins on the introduction of the new Rules of Golf; there is now just over 8 months until the new Rules of Golf are brought in on 1st January 2019.

I will be concentrating on the new Rules in future posts and Newsletters, but first I will mention what will not be markedly changing.

The R&A and USGA,in March 2018, published a draft of their proposed changes to the Rules of Golf, these will be confirmed in print in July 2018 with the other publications, Players’ Handbook and ‘Decisions Book’ due in September 2018.

The objective in modernising the Rules  of Golf is to ensure that they can be:

  1. More easily understood and applied by all golfers
  2. More consistent, simple and fair and
  3. Reinforce golf’s longstanding principles and character
  4. Help to improve the pace of playing a round of golf

To this end the R&A and USGA have recognised that, in order to preserve the essential character of the game, some rules will be retained. These are:

  1. The dimensions of the hole – retained at 41/4 inches in diameter
  2. The number of clubs a player may carry during a round will remain at 14 (an arbitrary number that was first established in 1938)
  3. The number of holes in a stipulated round remains at 18 (maximum allowed), or fewer played in the order set by a  Committee. This takes into account the allowing and encouraging of shorter rounds e.g. Nine-hole
  4. Recognising Match Play and Stroke Play as separate formats
  5. Playing the ball as it lies – this retains the fundamental challenge of the game to deal with the position of the ball wherever it comes to rest; relief may be offered for some necessary exceptions e.g obstructions, abnormal course conditions or divot holes, but these will remain as exceptions and not become the norm.
  6. Some prohibitions to improving the lie of a ball
  7. Some restrictions on touching sand in bunkers
  8. Retaining a penalty for moving a ball when it lies off the putting green
  9. Dropping procedure retained but simplified
  10. Rules on conforming equipment retained
  11. Practising on the course before a round; differences between Match Play and Stroke Play retained but the rules on practising after a round will be relaxed

My next post will deal with the changes in the Rules of Golf Definitions.

R&A 2018 Local Rule: Modification of Score Card Penalty

The R&A and USGA have recommended that all Committees introduce the following Local Rule commencing 1st January 2018.j

This Local Rule overrides the change to the Exception to Rule 6-6d introduced on 1st January 2016, which penalised a player an additional two strokes for a penalty that was not recorded on their returned score card.

The Exception to Rule 6-6d is modified as follows:

Exception: If a competitor returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken due to failure to include one or more penalty strokes that, before returning his score card, he did not know he had incurred, he is not disqualified. In such circumstances, the competitor incurs the penalty prescribed by the applicable Rule, but there is no additional penalty for a breach of Rule 6-6d. This Exception does not apply when the applicable penalty is disqualification from the competition.

Note 1: The Committee is responsible for the addition of scores and application of the handicap recorded on the score card – see Rule 33-5.
Note 2: In four-ball stroke play, see also Rule 31-3 and 31-7a.

So if this Local Rule is introduced, a player will only be penalised one or two strokes (depending on the penalty for the breach incurred), for not including a penalty on their score card, providing they were not aware that they had incurred one.